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Judge dismisses Golden Boy lawsuit against PBC creator Al Haymon

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed Golden Boy Promotions' $300 million lawsuit against Premier Boxing Champions creator Al Haymon and his various business entities, which alleged they repeatedly violated antitrust laws and the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act in an attempt to monopolize boxing.

The case never got to trial as U.S. District Judge John F. Walter of the Court of Central California granted Haymon's motion for summary judgment, ending the lawsuit that Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, once with close ties to Haymon before a bitter falling out, filed in May 2015.

"The court concludes that plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to any of their federal claims for relief," Walter wrote in a 24-page ruling, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.

"On behalf of our clients, Haymon Sports, LLC and its CEO, Alan Haymon, we are very pleased with the decision of the Court to grant summary judgment and dismiss all of the meritless claims filed by Golden Boy Promotions," attorney Michael Williams, of Quinn Emanuel, said in a statement given to ESPN.

"The Court's ruling makes clear that the efforts by Haymon Sports were intended to, and actually did, increase competition in the boxing industry, to the benefit of the boxers, other promoters, and the fans."

Golden Boy spokesman Stefan Friedman told ESPN that Golden Boy was "obviously disappointed with the judge's ruling. However, our top priority at Golden Boy is putting on the best fights for the fans and promoting the best shows in the business. We will continue to focus our energies on working with anyone and everyone to make the best fights happen."

The suit alleged that Haymon, who hires promoters on a card-by-card basis to handle the nuts and bolts of his PBC shows, conspired with investment firm Waddell & Reed to violate federal and state laws aimed at protecting fighters to monopolize boxing. It did this, the suit said, by buying time on a multitude of television networks, including ESPN, NBC, CBS, Fox and others, in an effort to block non-PBC promoters from having potential television outlets.

Golden Boy also accused Haymon of squatting on venues around the country to prevent other promoters from staging boxing cards there.

Haymon secured more than $500 million from Waddell & Reed to bankroll the venture, although it did secure a rights fee for its cards from cable network Spike, according to the ruling.

The suit, also brought by Golden Boy minority partner Bernard Hopkins, also alleged that Haymon violated the Ali Act, a federal law that makes it illegal to serve as both a manager, who has a fiduciary duty to a boxer, and a promoter, who does not.

It alleged that Haymon functions as a de facto promoter in addition to managing or advising a stable of more than 200 fighters, many of whom were once promoted by Golden Boy before the falling out.

In rejecting Golden Boy's allegations, Walter wrote, "Plaintiffs contend that Haymon Sports has used these provisions to force its boxers to work with 'sham' promoters and/or prevent its fighters from entering into contracts with Golden Boy and other 'legitimate' promoters. However, not a single boxer has testified that he has been coerced into selecting a particular promoter or prevented from selecting the promoter of his choice. In fact, defendants have submitted the declarations of six boxers who testify directly to the contrary."

The six fighters were identified in the ruling as Daniel Jacobs, John Molina, Oyewale Omotoso, Shawn Porter, Julian Williams and Leo Santa Cruz.

"Golden Boy's invocation of the Ali Act -- which the Court recognized exists to protect boxers, not promoters -- was especially hypocritical given that the Court cited evidence that confirms Haymon Sports has consistently looked to protect the interests of its boxers against one-sided and oppressive promoter contracts," Williams said. "Any decline in Golden Boy's business cannot be attributed to the hard work and legal activities of my clients. We remain disappointed that Golden Boy chose to use the court system to try and stifle lawful competition and make false and unsupported accusation about my clients."

Walter also wrote of Haymon's willingness to work with various promoters as a reason for dismissing the case.

"It is undisputed that Haymon Sports has worked with promoters across the industry (including Golden Boy, Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, and others) to secure high-paid bouts and title fights," Walter wrote. "Since January 1, 2015, at least three fights have taken place involving Haymon managed boxers and boxers promoted by Golden Boy."

Those fights were Deontay Wilder's heavyweight title victory against Bermane Stiverne, and Canelo Alvarez's middleweight title defense against Amir Khan -- Golden Boy's most lucrative bout of 2016 -- and an interim featherweight world title fight between Oscar Escandon and Robinson Castellanos.

The ruling also cited an impending fight being made between Golden Boy and Haymon fighters, the recently finalized Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. bout scheduled for May 6.

Walter cited Haymon's deal with Top Rank to make the revenue record-breaking fight between Floyd Mayweather, whom he managed, and Manny Pacquiao in 2015, illustrating a willingness to work with non-PBC promoters when it was in the best interest of his fighters and company.

"This evidence clearly demonstrates that when it is in the best interests of Haymon Sports' boxers, and consistent with its fiduciary duties, Haymon Sports freely permits its boxers to participate in bouts promoted by Golden Boy and other 'legitimate' promoters," Walter wrote. "Moreover, the fact that these fights were extremely lucrative for these so-called 'legitimate' promoters demonstrates that Haymon Sports is not attempting to harm competition by unlawfully tying out or destroying these promoters."

Walter further wrote that it was actually Golden Boy that declined to do business with Haymon at times rather than the other way around.

"There is absolutely no evidence that Haymon Sports has ever refused a request by Golden Boy to promote one of its boxers during the covered period," he wrote. He noted that in May 2015, a manager suggested to Golden Boy matchmaker Robert Diaz that he should try to place heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz on a PBC card to which Diaz responded, "Are you serious? You do know we have sued Haymon right?"

Thursday's ruling came eight months after Top Rank, which filed a similar $100 million federal anti-trust lawsuit against Haymon, settled the case out of court. One of the terms of the settlement was that the exclusivity provision in Haymon's deals with the various networks that televised PBC cards was dropped, which is what opened the door for Golden Boy to secure a deal with ESPN for at least 42 cards over the next two years. That agreement was announced last week.

Walter noted the ESPN deal as another piece of evidence that Haymon's PBC deal was not monopolistic.

"Plaintiffs have been unable to present any evidence of harm to competition," Walter wrote in his conclusion. "Instead, Plaintiffs have merely presented evidence of harm to themselves."